How to Do Advent When Nothing Seems Worth Celebrating

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Our Immanuel doesn’t offer us an escape. He comes to suffer with us.

As we approach Christmas this year, we are confronted with an uncomfortable question: Is there really anything worth celebrating?

We’re now in the season of Advent, an annual rhythm meant to slow us down as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Desiring an escape from the difficulties of this year, many of us declared several weeks ago that the Christmas season had already begun.

Advent is meant to be a time of hope, joy, love, and peace. These are beautiful virtues, but this year they risk sounding hollow. This time last year, while many Americans were worried about pumpkin pie and Black Friday deals, a deadly virus was silently starting to spread. Most of us knew nothing about it then, but with hundreds of thousands dead in our country alone, we certainly know about it now. Can we speak of hope in such a time?

In our efforts to curb this destruction, we’ve seen other predictable casualties, any one of which would be devastating in a “normal” year. Staggering numbers of people have lost their jobs. Business owners have shut their doors. Schools, in their shift to remote education, not only laid an added weight on struggling parents and teachers, but also restricted one of the most reliable safety nets for vulnerable and impoverished children. Can we speak of joy in such a time?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all of the strain brought on by the coronavirus was then paired with yet another American summer marked by racial strife. Ahmaud Arbery, then Breonna Taylor, then George Floyd. Innocent black people were killed, and in several cases, video evidence allowed us to witness the horror. Can we speak of peace in such a time?

Protests arose demanding justice and change. In some cities, these protests became …

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